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"21" Field Service Headquarters



Field Service Headquarters

Coordination, Communication, Logistics

At its new headquarters, the American Field Service----- free of the Ambulance in fact and in name----came into its own.

Day and night for three years--- the incessant details and the constant creation--- the construction and improvement of the ambulances---the perfecting and organizing of supplies for cars and men --- the relationship with the French Army and its officers at the front and rear ---the problem of ever-shifting volunteers--- the constant necessary contact with the United States ---nothing was too small not to be looked after, nothing was too large to be conceived and put into motion. I want you to see him as I did and you all couldn't. Your job was at the front. But it was his vitality, imagination, and strength of purpose that got you there, kept watching over you while you were there. And all the time the American Field Service was growing until nearly 3,000 volunteers were serving --- really a great undertaking when you realize that men, money and supplies came from all over the United States across the ocean to France, and that the sections were then scattered throughout the French front ---all this conceived and co-ordinated by 'Doc' Andrew.

__ Stephen Galatti, "Memorial Bulletin " in George Rock, History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955, New York 1956.

In December 1915, Andrew enlisted the help of a driver from the Section 3 in Alsace: Stephen Galatti, another Harvard graduate. Galatti would soon become Andrew's indispensable "right hand man".

 When you walked into 21, rue Raynouard, in the spring of 1917 you saw that things were moving. Baggage, supplies, men --- innumerable men --- troops of them --- green young recruits in an endless procession were all over the place. The office force harried with overwork paid little attention to you. If you got one of them into a corner and told him what you wanted he passed the buck wearily to someone else. Fisher rounding up a squad for driving practice told you: "Yes I used to look out for that but Ewell's doing it now." Ewell handed you on to Denny. When you found Denny bossing a corvée unloading châssis from a truck in the grove he sent you back to Peter Kent. You saw Mr. Cartier, Miss Lough, Muhr, Mme Grimbert, Jeanne: ---you just got a glimpse of Doc. Andrew jumping into his car on the way to wring concessions from some French official.

Finally if you persisted in your quest someone steered you to a door marked Mr Galatti. You went in (he always managed time to see everyone) and noticed first the most disorderly desk in the world. That desk defied description. It had everything on it: letters, papers, books, scratch pads, pencils, cigarettes, more papers, more letters, more and more papers, more and more letters. You could just look over the top of it and see Galatti sitting on the other side. You stated your case and he listened to you. Very likely while you were talking he answered the phone, made illegible notes on a scratch pad about a couple of unrelated subjects, but that didn't matter: he heard you; understood you perfectly.

Sometimes he told you that you couldn't have what you wanted, --- that was final: you felt that it couldn't be done, --- you knew that he didn't say it just to get rid of you and save himself trouble. Sometimes if he thought you were talking nonsense he didn't answer at all but just listened and listened until bye and bye you got tired and went away. He never called you a damned fool. He never called anyone a damned fool. When you think that men were going through the rue Raynouard at the rate of 50 a week and that every one of them had his own little grievance, you wondered how he ever managed to keep his temper. But he did --- it wastes time to lose one's temper and he couldn't spare the time. But generally when you had rambled through your plea he said something brief and decisive: "The best train is 8 A.M. Gare de l'Est", or "Try 26 avenue des Ternes" or "Your cousin is in section 8. He'll be down on permission in a day or two" or "I'll see about it."

And he always did see about it. At first you didn't believe he would. You didn't believe he could possibly remember or find the time to do anything if he did remember, but he fooled you. No matter how preposterous your request, if he said it would be all right it was all right; --- a day or two later, he produced your missing trunk, or found a place for you in the section you had set your heart on.

Everybody was working harder that Spring than he had ever worked before but Galatti did as much as the rest of us. He never took a holiday. Seven days a week he got to the office at least at 8 A.M. Sometimes he went away at seven in the evening, sometimes later. And such days he put in: he wired the agent at Bordeaux, selected just the right person to fill a vacancy, sent off livrets, dictated letters, ordered brass donor-plates and saw that they got put on the right ambulances, listened to kicks, organized new sections, and if as often happened a wire came in at five announcing that 50 men would be up from Bordeaux at 7:30 --- oh very well --- it was all in the day's work. He hustled just a little harder than usual and at 7:30 he had enough cars at the Quai d'Orsay to carry them and their baggage, --- supper and beds were waiting for them. Then, if a convoy was leaving the next morning at six he would be on hand to see them start.

The most marvelous thing about it all was his memory. Down under the welter of papers on his desk there was a card catalogue, but it was buried too deep for reference. He didn't have to look at it: he knew where the cars were and where the men were. If Section 8 reported that they hadn't received a barrel of oil, he knew right out of his head what day it had been shipped, who had driven it to the rue Pinel and the name of the Maréchal des Logis there who would do something about tracing it.

That was the life he led from the Spring of 1916 to late in the Fall of 1917. He stuck at the job not because he wanted it but because no one else could handle it. He never complained but I know perfectly well that it wasn't the job he would have chosen. Everyone was wild to get to the front again ---to get into the fun and excitement. Once I remember I went into his office to tell him that if I couldn't go back to a section I was going home. But I didn't tell him that: I thought of the grind he'd been going through ---was going through---was looking forward to, ---with no fun ---no excitement---no honors---no publicity, and I was ashamed of myself.

__ John R. Fisher, AFS Bulletin, "Rue Raynouard", April 1919.

* * *

The establishment of the Headquarters for the United States Army Ambulance Service with the French Army was a miniature "Quartier Général." It functioned through divisions or departments, with officers at their heads who were directly responsible to the Chief of Service. The peculiar status of the service, its detachment from the American Expeditionary Forces, and its attachment to the French Army, presented unique and difficult problems of organization and administration. Liaison was 'necessary with the American Army, as it was with the French, which led naturally to organization into a body complete and self-supporting. As the service was forced to operate more or less independently, it was necessary to get many special authorizations of general application. Activities began immediately with the arrival of Colonel Percy L. Jones and his staff, and a small detail of enlisted men to make up the office force. It was the duty of this advance party to establish offices, liaison with the French and Americans, and begin enlistments and militarization of the American Field Service and the Red Cross sections, then working at the front. It was during this period that Col. Jones had to lean heavily on the services of the former Inspector General of the American Field Service, A. Piatt Andrew and his immediate assistant, Stephen Galatti. The French Army contact was through Commandant Doumenc, Director of the Automobile Service of the French General Headquarters.

Commissioned a Major in the USAAS, and subsequently a Lieutenant Colonel, the American Field Service Inspector-General, A. Piatt Andrew, became the officer in charge of all transportation of this Service, and next in ranking officer to Colonel Jones. During the absence of the latter, he served as Acting Chief of Service. The efficient organization built up at the headquarters of the American Field Service, under the guidance of Mr. Andrew and Mr. Galatti, was of inestimable value. This was located at 21 Rue Raynouard.

__ John R. Smucker, Jr., The United States Army Ambulance Service in Armies of France and Italy, 1917-1918-1919, USAAS Association. 1967.

* * *

On January 1, 1918, after many tribulations, complications, and adjustments, the American Ambulance Field Service finally and officially ceased to exist and became a part of the Ambulance Field Service of the United States Army. Simultaneously 21 Rue Raynouard, its headquarters, in its original form also passed out of existence. The latter event was marked by a. grand celebration In Paris, which took the form of a memorable banquet attended by the many friends of the institution, now transformed into a Club.

__ William Yorke Stevenson, From "Poilu" to "Yank". Houghton Mifflin, 1918.

* * *

In the autumn of 1918, Sleeper went to Paris, where he became director of American Field Service headquarters at 21 Rue Raynouard in Passy. After the armistice, he remained in Paris to assist Andrew in reconstituting the Service as a scholarship program for the exchange of students between French and American universities. The two men returned in mid-1919 to Gloucester, where Andrew set about editing the official History of the American Field Service in France, published in three volumes the following year.

__ "Afterword," Beauport Chronicle. The Intimate Letters of Henry Davis Sleeper to Abram Piatt Andrew, Jr. 1906-1915. Edited by E. Parker Hayden, Jr. and Andrew Gray. Boston: Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. 1991.

* * *

For the past nine months Mr. Sleeper has made Rue Raynouard his life. He has in truth become almost an inseparable part of it. He has made the management of the place his personal business. The trials and tribulations of those who have come here he has made his own too. If difficulties could be straightened out, Mr. Sleeper was the man who could straighten them. You might not, at first, guess this, for Mr. Sleeper was very idle. You might find him at most hours of the day moving around with in the clubrooms, apparently with nothing more to do than the men with whom he was talking. But somehow if you mentioned to him some difficulty that you couldn't untangle he would tell you he'd look into it ; and probably the next noon would casually tell you that he had fixed it up, and if you ran along down there here you wouldn't have any more trouble. Where he got the time for all these things, nobody knows. But he got it. That is Mr. Sleeper's secret. Since the large number of men have been staying at Rue Raynouard, Mr. Sleeper has continued his series of ever-new surprises. Little did you expect when you wandered in one night from the theatre to find the dining room thrown open, and an after-the-theatre feed spread out upon the tables --- the like of which might not be found elsewhere in Paris for love or money. So great a success was this innovation that Mr. Sleeper has since made it almost a regular institution. On April fifth he again outdid himself by arranging a dance --- another immense success. Perhaps on this night you wondered, along about twelve o'clock, how you were ever going to get that lady home. If you went upstairs to scan the supposedly empty street in hopes of seeing some belated bandit come chugging along, you found yourself facing a street-full of taxis. They had been corralled by Mr. Sleeper --- and no one to this day knows how he did it!

__ Robert A. Donaldson, "Rue Raynouard and Mr. Sleeper", AFS Bulletin, April 16, 1919.


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